Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1948: The Voice of DoomReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: July 07, 1948-July 30, 1948
"The Voice of Doom"
The Batmobile carrying Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, the civilian guises of Batman and Superman, is heading for a laboratory in the mountains. Doctors James Vance and Harold Gordon and lab technician Carl Johnson are using sonic sound waves to learn of the Earth's topography by sending beams to the moon. The night before, Bruce was visiting Carl while his ward Dick Grayson is away in Chicago when two escaped convicts named Harry the Monk and Butcher Stark had broken into the place during a thunderstorm. They had turned on the power and were hit by some current resulting in an eerie sound coming from Stark's throat. Meanwhile, Harry had died shortly afterwards. The four men had no success in contacting the authorities because Stark had escaped from the death house. Bruce later was able to talk to the police about Stark, but he needs Superman's help with this strange adventure. The Man of Steel takes Bruce on a flight to the scientists' residence, where they find something shocking. Butcher Stark is gone.
Doctor Gordon is beyond any help, but Superman and Bruce are trying to question Carl, who has discovered that he is deaf. Superman has taken Carl and Doctor Vance for medical attention. Meanwhile, Bruce is in the sonic lab. He has told the police of Butcher Stark's strange new power, but they do not believe him. Later, after Bruce is finished talking to Superman on the telephone, Stark has attacked the millionaire. Not long after that Superman finds him. The pair is now searching for the murderer that now has the ability to kill with sound. With one policeman unconscious, and others on a manhunt, there seems to be no way to find the convict.
Superman has been pursuing Butcher Stark until he finds him on a train returning to Metropolis. Resuming his guise of Clark Kent, our hero searches every car for a trace of the criminal, but as he confronts Stark, windows shatter, and the Man of Steel falls backwards. The deadly sonic voice of Butcher Stark has now beaten even the mighty Superman.
The train that was nearly destroyed by Butcher Stark before it had arrived in Metropolis. The unconscious Clark has been found by Metropolis Mayor Perry White and the police. Upon awakening, Kent tells White of the escaped Stark's new abilities. The mayor doesn't believe the mild mannered reporter, and Bruce Wayne denies that the events of the past few hours even occurred. Wayne later explains to Clark that news of Stark's sonic voice should not get out in the press just yet. Later, Clark tells Bruce that Superman is more vulnerable to Stark's powers because of his superhuman hearing. He must find a way to stop the killer. Otherwise, nobody in Metropolis will be safe.
Clark and Bruce are having trouble searching for clues to Stark's whereabouts. A nurse and two doctors have been assigned by Mayor White to care for Clark after the train incident. Locking the nurse in closet and avoiding the doctors, Clark and Bruce go to police headquarters and the state prison respectively. Meanwhile, in a waterfront warehouse's ornate office, a man named Frank Vicko is meeting with a woman. She wants his help with a plan, and the lady is none other than the Scarlet Widow. Vicko turns the Widow down, and she is about to leave when the hulking form of Butcher Stark enters the room. Vicko wants nothing to do with Stark. The convict's terrible power then brings down Vicko much to the Scarlet Widow's satisfaction. She intends to use the killer to make her comeback into the Metropolis underworld and destroy all of her enemies. Can even Superman stop this dangerous new alliance?
After Clark has warned Stark's former associates of the murderer's escape, the police take him and Bruce to Mayor White. Wayne then tells Perry the truth about Stark. Afterwards, the World's Finest Heroes go to Frank Vicko's trucking company, where they find four truckers unconscious and Vicko himself dead from Stark's deadly voice. The pair later reports this to Mayor White, who tells them that the Metropolis National Bank has been robbed. The south wall had been blasted out, and witnesses had heard a sound that had given them a bad earache. Butcher Stark has struck again.
Butcher Stark has done a number on the bank and has taken five hundred thousand dollars. A citywide manhunt is going on for Stark's Sedan with a broken headlight. The vehicle is found after midnight with some unconscious policemen, and Clark Kent has found a clue in a wrecked squad car. The automobile's smashed clock had stopped at 11:55 PM. This gives Stark a twenty-five minute head start. Only the speed of Superman can catch up with the escaped convict. The Man of Steel is closing in on Stark at an airline runway. However, their next confrontation could be dangerous for our hero.
As Bruce Wayne attempts to keep Perry White from learning of Clark Kent's actual whereabouts, Superman is waiting for the right moment to get Stark. At the same time, the Scarlet Widow is behind the Man of Tomorrow. She warns Stark of Superman's approach. The criminal uses his sonic voice to subdue the Kryptonian, and Stark and the Scarlet Widow make their getaway. After regaining his faculties, Superman returns to Perry and Bruce as Clark Kent. As the Widow and Stark plan their next move on their airplane, Clark reveals to Bruce that the deadly power of Stark may be too much even for Superman. There seems to be no way to stop the unholy alliance of Butcher Stark and the Scarlet Widow.
Clark has brought Perry White and Lois Lane to the sonic laboratory in the mountains to convince them that Butcher Stark really can use his voice as a weapon. Carl Johnson is using the machines there to demonstrate the true power of sound. This gives Kent an idea. Superman will be bombarded waves like those used by Stark. The Man of Steel will be prepared to stop Butcher Stark next time, or he will die trying.
With Bruce Wayne as a witness, Johnson is gradually testing sound waves more powerful than those used by Butcher Stark. The flying Man of Steel then suddenly plummets to the ground. Recovering, he moves at the speed of light. This doesn't give the audio waves a chance to reach our hero due to a wall of resistance. Superman now has the key to defeating Butcher Stark. He only must locate the escaped convict. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Stark and the Scarlet Widow are on a crime spree. One of their victims currently in the hospital is none other than Bruce Wayne's ward Dick Grayson, who is really Robin the Boy Wonder. This adventure has just become more tense for Superman and Batman.
News of two men in dying in a car that wasn't destroyed in a crash has reached Metropolis. In addition, Dick Grayson was injured in the attack. Superman and Batman rush to Chicago to check young Robin's condition. The doctors say that there is no human way possible to help the boy. Superman believes that he can fly Dick to the upper stratosphere in order to give him a shock similar to that of Butcher Stark's attack. Dick struggles to get air into his body, but his eyes are still closed. Has Superman doomed Robin to death?
Knowing Dick needs a shock to awaken, Superman is forced to drop the boy. Robin makes his descent, and Superman catches him in time to bring him back to the hospital. The doctors are able to save the lad. Robin later tells Superman and Batman that three men had left the Scarlet Widow's plane that had landed because of engine trouble. The Widow and the others went to a shady pool room called the Ace Billiard Academy. Later, Robin had gotten into the trunk of some criminals' car and found that Stark and the Scarlet Widow had attacked the gangsters. Dick had hidden to avoid being caught in the middle. Now, Superman and Batman go to the Ace Billiard Academy only to find that it has been destroyed by Stark. The World's Finest Heroes only hope lies in going to the airfield, where the Widow's ship had landed. Unfortunately, the craft is nowhere to be seen. The Scarlet Widow and Butcher Stark have escaped once again.
Clark Kent has learned that the Scarlet Widow and Butcher Stark want controlling interest in all of the organized crime in Chicago. They met a man named Bailey, owner of Ace Billiard Academy and crime boss, but the gangster refused to give in to their demands. Bailey had gone to meet the Widow with the intention to kill her only to find he would be the next victim of Butcher's deadly sonic voice. It was Bailey that was found dead in the car where Robin had hidden. Now, Kent is meeting with Bruce Wayne. They look at a piece of tracing paper that shows a route for the Scarlet Widow's airplane. As our heroes attempt to find the villains, Stark is impatient. The Widow has convinced him to calm down, but he may be an unpredictable element in the deadly woman's plans.
Thanks to maps and weather stations, Batman and Superman have a rough idea where the Scarlet Widow and Butcher Stark will be. At the same time, the villains in question are preparing themselves. At 11:32 PM, The Widow's latest operation will begin. However, while the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel await the transport plane. Superman's keen ears pick up the sound of Stark's voice. Suddenly, the craft that had carried the sonic powered killer is falling apart. Superman must now put his great speed into action.
Despite being unable to capture Butcher Stark and the Scarlet Widow, Superman has landed the transport. The pilots need medical attention, and there is two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in furs aboard the ship. However, before Superman can aid the men, he and Batman must battle four gangsters who are after the expensive cargo. With the bad guys unconscious, The Man of Tomorrow leaves the Caped Crusader on a plateau while he carries the airplane to the proper authorities. The pilots will be helped, and the criminals will go to prison. Unfortunately, Batman is not where Superman had left him. The Dark Knight secretly is hanging onto a truck driven by Stark. He is not hidden for very long. Having dropped a jack-handle, the cowled hero has nearly been discovered, and Stark is using his sonic voice to rid himself of his passenger. With Superman elsewhere, there seems to be no way to save Batman.
A passing motorist has bought Batman some time. He is now holding onto the roof of Stark's truck that is heading for a nearby farm. Not far away, Superman is helping the state police in Lincoln, Nebraska block off the roads and misses Batman's call from the villains' hideout. At the same time, tensions mount between Stark and the Scarlet Widow. Her plan to take the furs has failed, and she believes Stark is weak. Angry, Stark uses his voice on the Widow. Batman has also fallen victim to Stark's power. A kerosene lamp has suddenly broken in the sonic assault, and a fire has broken out. Superman and the police arrive as the flames spread. However, even Superman's tremendous speed may not be enough to rescue Batman.
The burning farmhouse has collapsed, but Superman has shielded Batman, who had used his cloak to protect himself from Stark's attack. The Scarlet Widow had died in the fire, but Stark is still on the loose. The large manhunt has continued for the murderer. It is later learned that Stark is heading back to the mountain laboratory that had given him his powers because the Scarlet Widow had said that his voice is weakening. Now, Superman and Batman prepare for a showdown with Butcher Stark that could mean the end of the World's Finest Heroes.
A raging thunderstorm occurs in the mountains near the laboratory where Butcher Stark had gotten his sonic voice powers. Superman moves at the speed of light as Stark tries to attack. The Man of Steel continues to pursue a shocked Stark until a bolt of lightning strikes the killer unconscious. With his abilities now gone, Stark can now return to prison to pay for his crimes thanks to the team of Superman and Batman.
Some days have passed since Superman defeated Butcher Stark. He is now in his guise of Clark Kent searching for Jimmy Olsen in the offices of the Daily Planet. Copyboy Beany Martin tells Kent that the cub reporter had been acting strangely after a Hindu in a with a curly beard and earrings had spoken to him. "The Secret of the Genie" is sure to be one of Superman's most strange adventures, gang, as he learns what has happened to Jimmy. Tune in for The Adventures of Superman to see what happens next week.
"The Voice of Doom" is perhaps one of the best serials in the Superman radio show and is nearly perfect. Now, you'll note that I said nearly perfect. I do have one problem with the story, which I will get to in a moment. This flaw aside, however, the arc has officially become one of my favorites in the series.
"The Voice of Doom" is like many of the best Superman stories in that it could work well in any time period in any form of media. Another great example of my point would be the episode of the 1950s TV show titled "Panic in the Sky." It was retooled decades later in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman into "All Shook Up." I personally like both versions and feel that they all work well for their respective series. Anyway, "Voice", like "Panic" could work in television, comics and animation. Who knows? Maybe it'll make its way into those formats in the future.
I mentioned before that I have a problem with "The Voice of Doom." Well, it has to do with the Scarlet Widow. I am happy that she returned, and she is one of my favorite villains in the radio show. However, no effort is made to mention how she survived after everyone believed that she was killed in what I call "The Kryptonite Saga." If memory serves, she had died in the hospital after being attacked by the Atom Man. What happened to bring her back? It was sufficient for her to say something about doctors under her control had saved her or something. As the story is now, the Widow's resurrection is a gaping plot hole without any explanation.
In addition to Kryptonite, we are given another method of weakening Superman. This time, sonic sound waves hit his superhuman ears, making him more vulnerable to the deadly voice of Butcher Stark. This makes the conflict more interesting without having to depend on the same plot device over and over again. Granted, Stark was some two bit thug with special abilities, but so was John Corben before he became Metallo. And, like Metallo, Stark is another one of those villains the Man of Steel's rogues' gallery that I've come to enjoy.
Despite the Scarlet Widow plot hole, "The Voice of Doom" gets my highest recommendation. I wish more of the serials I have reviewed had been like this one. Jimmy Olsen finds himself in trouble once again as Superman must learn "The Secret of the Genie" in seven days or so. We'll find out what happens together, Superfans. Until next week, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky. Now, go read all the other wonderful articles and reviews on the Superman Homepage. You'll be glad you did.
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